If you’ve ever played a video or board game before, you’re likely familiar with the concept of rarity. Used to balance games and keep things interesting, this fundamental mechanic is intrinsically linked to countless games. As the first TCG ever created, it should come as no surprise that rarity is an important factor within MTG.
Even if you try to ignore it by purchasing cards from the secondary market, there’s no escaping rarity in MTG. After all, all the cards you covet came from somewhere first, specifically, a Booster Pack once upon store shelves. No matter which pack you purchase, each one has cards of different rarities.
Typically, the rarity of a card will be based on its strength within Limited formats, such as Draft. Here, this core mechanic is used to determine how frequently cards appear, ensuring games are fun and varied. As a result of this balancing, higher rarity cards are literally rarer and harder to obtain, typically leading to higher prices.
Within Magic: The Gathering, cards can come in four different rarities. Found within most Booster packs, these rarities are Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Mythic. While this is all fairly straightforward, card rarity in MTG does have some quirks. So, if you’re looking to learn everything you’d ever need about rarity, we’ve got you covered!
Generally, the biggest indicator of a card’s MTG rarity is something you’ll find on the right side of the card right under the image. Along the line that indicates the type of card and its subtypes is the set symbol. In the case of Sheoldred, the Apocalypse as pictured above, its right beside the word Praetor in the line under the image.
The color of this set symbol is the main indicator as to what MTG rarity a card is. This orangey red color is typically a Mythic Rare, the rarest MTG card you can open in current product.
Current is an important word to use since Mythic Rare cards are, in terms of MTG’s long history, a relatively new thing. In 2008, Shards of Alara introduced the new Mythic Rare rarity. You typically will only find these cards in one of every eight packs of MTG draft packs. The exact ratio varies by product and set and, generally, if you find one of these in a pack, you will find one in place of a Rare card. Most current Draft packs do have a random foil slot that can be an additional Mythic Rare, but your chances are rather slim. Typically, you will not find a foil Mythic Rare in a Draft Box.
Instead of the orangey yellow tinge that a Mythic Rare card has on their set symbol, a Rare card has a yellowish gold one. An example can be found with the featured card above.
Unlike Mythic Rare cards, however, Rare MTG cards have been around for a lot longer. These go all the way back to Alpha, the first MTG set officially released! Unfortunately, besides the order in which the cards are slotted in packs, its much more difficult to tell what cards are Rare and what aren’t in older sets, as the color coded set symbols are not available. You will typically need to look these up, but sets like this are not widely available in sealed product anymore, so its probably not something you’ll need to worry about, at least, as you’re getting into Magic.
In a typical Draft Pack, you will find one Rare card. You can open an additional one as a foil, but its not common to do so.
Another defining factor with current Rare and Mythic Rare cards is that they tend to have a security stamp located at the bottom of the card. This is an even more recent addition to MTG cards that surfaced around Core Set 2015. The idea behind these stamps is twofold: to help identify the type of MTG card you’re playing with and to make MTG cards more difficult to make fakes out of.
There are different types of security stamps on MTG cards like Acorn stamps and a different style for Universes Beyond cards. As mentioned previously, not every Rare or Mythic Rare has a security stamp, so looking at the color of the set symbol is a better indication of whether a card is rare or not – at least with recent product.
There are some rare instances of security stamps appearing on common and uncommon cards, but these are generally promotional copies of the card. You won’t find security stamps on common and uncommon MTG cards that come out of a standard Draft Pack.
Uncommon MTG cards tend to come in multiples in your typical 15-card draft pack. Expect to find three of these generally, but you can occasionally find four if you open a foil one. The set symbol tends to be a sort of blue color for uncommon cards.
In terms of function, these tend to be build-around cards for Limited formats that offer a lot of power in the right contexts. Occasionally these can be surprisingly powerful outside of Limited, completely defining constructed formats. Force of Will was an uncommon card once upon a time.
Uncommons can be rather expensive in the right sets. In fact, there are some MTG sets that do not feature a Rare MTG rarity like Arabian Knights. In these extremely rare cases, uncommon cards can be worth hundreds of dollars. You will not run into a Rareless set with current MTG product.
Chances are that if you come across an MTG card in the wild, you’re most likely to find a Common. Draft packs typically have 15 cards and 10-11 of them are common ones. The last slot generally depends on whether there’s a foil card or not. The foil card could be common but if it isn’t it will generally replace a common slot. The set symbol for a common card tends to be black, but this can also be a bit misleading since older product have all of their set symbols black despite MTG rarity differences. This shouldn’t be an issue for sealed product you can commonly find on shelves, however.
You won’t generally find these cards outside of Limited play. These cards are the building blocks to a Draft format, but are generally weaker than the majority of MTG cards in other rarities. That doesn’t mean common cards never see structured play, but its a rarity.
That’s How Rarities Work (For the Most Part)
The above rarities is generally what you should expect when opening randomized product. Of course, there are additional rare chase treatments past this point that can be super expensive. If you’re interested in those, take a look at some of the other content we have, as they come up quite a bit.
Product with a set card list, like Commander decks, also follow these rarities, but they don’t really apply the same way. You’re guaranteed to get those cards in that type of product, so there are no chances involved with finding the card in a pack.
Rarities don’t strictly reflect the price of a card either. More often than not, Rare and Mythic Rare cards are the chase cards of a set, but not every Rare and Mythic Rare is expensive. Hopefully, this helps newer players understand how MTG rarities work.